The SkunkLock looks just like the regular metal U-shaped devices used by cyclists around the world -- but the white stripes painted on it reveal that it conceals a secret weapon.
Inside is a noxious chemical brew that temporarily disables thieves, causing them to vomit, and making it hard to see or breathe -- all the while raising public awareness of the theft, thanks to the cloud of chemicals.
US entrepreneur Daniel Idzkowski and Swiss-born engineer Yves Perrenoud are behind the project. They appealed for a crowdfunding investment of $20,000
to turn the lock from an ambitious -- if smelly -- idea into a viable commercial product.
The SkunkLock was born after Idzjowski's close friend had his bike stolen in spite of its strong lock. With only 2.4% of bikes stolen
ever being recovered, the team wanted to create a better defense against thieves -- one that fought back.
"Originally, we considered some sort of explosive lock but we quickly realized that would never be safe. So, we turned to chemical compounds that seem like the only real way to disable the thieves without causing anyone permanent harm," Idzjowski told CNN.
"The formula that we've developed is detectable through even some of the most robust gas masks. Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way."
The secret formula
The lock's creators say they can't reveal too much about the chemicals involved in what they've called Formula D_1
, to stop thieves finding ways to get around it. But they insist -- having tested it on themselves -- that it is completely safe and legal.
"It's essentially made out of fatty acids that you can find in every day products, such as rancid butter or parmesan cheese,"Idzjowski explained when interviewed by CNN.
When asked if he feared bicycle users would start painting stripes on their locks to clone his product, he told CNN he would be flattered.
"It would mean Skunklock is a success and people know thieves are scared of it. I would understand if college students tried to copy it to avoid spending money."
If their bid for funding is successful, its inventors say the Skunklock will available to buy from summer 2017.